An Open Analysis on Fan Affinities

If we are to notice the amount, the type, and how open we are when it comes to Japanese visual media that we consume, we are to know where we stand. So in an attempt to enlighten readers in a way that encourages them to take a closer look at themselves, me and good friend Pontifus have conducted an excruciating (I mean, really, we had to find a decent amount of time for ourselves just so we can continue this), unadulterated, two-year, tag-team discussion-based analysis based on the defined variables in our otaku fandom equation. All in semi tl;dr glory.

Before we start, I’ll be frank and swift about this: Please take note that we are not trying to define or conclude anything concrete here. The analysis simply investigates and branches out a fan’s, to coin Pontifus’ term, “interpretative strategies”, in order to come up with a proper result. And because interpretations are never always the same, the majority of the basis and processes of this analysis is not concrete, which means results would still remain as an opinionated guess until tested (and, on a more daring note, proven) based on personal (in this case, your) interpretations. Or we could just do a survey and see how it works. I’m not going to go out of my way to say that this is overanalysis. We’re database animals, so feel free to question yourself about it instead. And no, I’m not really mad. Just handing out disclaimers, in case you need to say something about the writing.

Shance: Since I can’t seem to get you on Twitter ot Gtalk, I just made a Gdoc so I can ask your opinion on this Cartesian Plane I made:

Where X = The degree of openness of the fandom to outside stimuli
And Y = The affinity of the fandom in question

Pontifus: Haha, I guess I’d be open/positive, albeit not quite a mindless, rabid fan, but then the extremes are, after all, extreme.

I tend to think of elitists as equally positive and negative, as they’re as confident in the wrongness of your taste as in the rightness of their own, and generally will tell you as much. But then I don’t know what the closed/positive extreme would be. How positive can a closed-minded person be? Closed/positive seems like a weird quadrant.

Same with open/negative, actually. Unless those are people who watch things they know they won’t like. But then, there’s a certain kind of person who enjoys bad things for their being bad…maybe the most relevant part of the graph is the line from the closed/negative corner to the open/positive corner. That seems to be roughly where most people would fall.

Shance: I think I haven’t fully defined what “affinity” in the plane really represents, because affinity in fandom represents a lot of things, like liking bad stuff like porn or fetishes like guro or futanari, or being destructive in a sense like trolling other fans, bashing shows or genres, etc. That’s why I put the elitists in the positive/close quadrant, since they are not willing enough to listen to others’ opinion unless it coincides to their own, or it proves something wrong in the ideals they believe in. The trolls on closed/negative quadrant on the other hand simply just do anything negative like bash shows and disregard opinion just for the hell of it.

But yeah, we could just disregard those two and form the line. Question is, who represents what? Any ideas on that?

Pontifus: Well, I was thinking of something like this:

I mean, I do think that closed/positive people exist. These would probably be the hardcore nostalgiafags –people who really, really like what they like, and aren’t really interested in telling you that what you like is dumb, but what they like is 20 years old and they aren’t really open to anything more recent than that. They aren’t really elitists because they aren’t interested in invalidating what they don’t like; it just isn’t for them. On the other hand, the elitist fans (or film snob fans, as I tend to call them) see themselves as arbiters of good taste, and that job requires equal parts elevating things they think are great and tearing down things they think aren’t so great. These would probably fall toward the center of the y-axis.

The open/negative quadrant still eludes me, though. Are these maybe those people who get great enjoyment out of watching “bad” things while still thinking they’re bad?

Speaking of good/bad, I think this graph has to function independent of any value judgment paradigm. Or, that is, it needs to take into account how fans themselves judge things, without relying upon concrete assumptions about quality. I’ve been assuming that that’s what the y-axis is for; a positive fan likes what they like more than they dislike what they dislike (as suggested by their contribution to fandom discussion/rhetoric), and vice versa for negative fans.

Shance: If we are to go by your definition of elitist fans, doesn’t that make every genre-specific fan fall under this category? Based on observation, mecha fans in particular do this a lot, and so do the moeblob lovers. However some genre-specific fans do have some preferences that are outside the main interest, like fetishes for example. How would you interpret this?

As for the open/negative quadrant, yes, those kinds of people are included. They would love illegal and unethical things like rape, harem, incest, and loliconism, but I think we can disregard if they even think of it as good or bad in any way.

Lastly, do you have a better interpretation for the judgement paradigms? Do we need to include only the important ones, or should we remove everything completely?

Pontifus: Genre-specific fans would be another example of positive/closed people who I wouldn’t call “elitists” — at least, as long as they’re more concerned with liking what they like than disliking what they don’t like (hence positive). To me, an elitist is someone as likely to deprecate things as to appreciate them. I don’t think they’re remarkably positive.

What I’m saying about value judgment is that I don’t think that we should, for the purposes of making the graph, think of anything in terms of legality or ethics. For our purposes, lolicon or rape or whatever is just a thing someone might like or dislike, or be open or closed to. Legality and ethics should have no bearing on the graph; they’re simply too variable. “Negativity” to me would refer to spending more time with one’s dislikes than with one’s likes — say, writing more negative, defamatory blog posts than positive, celebratory posts, regardless of what those posts actually celebrate or defame. It’s all very specific to the individual. The actual, particular objects of fandom shouldn’t matter, at least if we want the graph to be broadly applicable. I’m not saying that we should throw up our hands and approve of people who like toddlercon or whatever; I’m just saying that the graph should function as independently of our opinions as is possible. We open a can of worms when we start passing judgment on what people are into, and I don’t think that’d help anything here.

Shance: I guess the graph needs a major revision:

If we are to denote a certain population for the open/negative quadrant, do you think it’s for people who consume content because they think it’s bad while looking for a reason to like it or call it good? Considering our current outlook on the past seasons and years, this seems to be the case.

And since I don’t have any credible reason as to why the hell I put Trolls on this Cartesian Plane in the first place, I’m taking it out. We’ll have to find a demographic for the closed/negative quadrant, though.

Pontifus: I actually think “trolls” is a pretty good descriptor for the extreme members of that quadrant. I don’t even think they’re all bad, those trolls. Some of them are just mean, I guess, but otherwise they’re the tricksters of the Internet, and tricksters have their uses.

I agree that open/negative people are those who purposefully and systematically consume what they’d call “bad” media, but I’d think that someone who puts effort into trying to like something is more positive than negative. The open/negative person watches Mars of Destruction or Garzey’s Wing because they’re hilariously awful; they find value in those things precisely because they’re “bad.”

For example, the Terribad group of SSCSAV is an entirely open/negative undertaking. They make the “bad” judgment, hence negative, but they still watch a lot of things, hence open.

Shance: Well, for one those guys aren’t really trying to do anything else from those shows, so I guess that’s acceptable.

Time to get a little touchy, then. Since we dodged porn for a bit, I’m going to go back into discussing its part in the plane. If we are to include the perverts and all the tag-frenzied hentai-loving communities in the graph, where would you put it? I initially think they’re negative/positive, but after our discussions I now think they fit in the positive/neutral category (we can’t really say quadrant on this one, can we?). They like their porn, hence positive, but they can be open or closed about it, preference-wise. Of course, preference meaning fetishes and all of the similar sort.

Speaking of which, have you ever thought of a demographic that can actually fit in the center of the graph, i.e. neutral in both affinity and judgment?

Pontifus: Totally agree with you re: porn consumers. That’d be a good characterization of the average viewer who uses porn as porn, anyway.

I don’t know if there’s a distinct demographic I’d peg as perfectly centrist or moderate. Those people probably exist in all the groups we’ve talked about — they’re just less extreme than the really vocal members.

Shance: I guess if we can’t peg a demographic in it we might as well settle with the majority line.

Interestingly, I thought of another demographic during our talk about the open/negative quadrant: Redeemers. They’re people who initially think a show is bad, then watches it to find any factor that would make people think it’s good or passable, hence “redeeming” the show that was watched. I think I’ll add it in here, too.

Anyways, this probably means the graph is good. For now. We’ll just have to wait for further changes. I just hope we’re still around when it happens.

Leave a comment


  1. Interesting work here.

    I wouldn’t know how to characterize myself if I were to strictly plot my fan personality along your cartesian plane. I am heavily into nostalgia, but am quite open and positive. I try about 8 shows every season (dropping almost 3 quarters of any sample, but stays away from disparaging the dropped shows) and am generally excited about new stuff which is important given how uncommon my preferred robot subgenre appears the past 3 years that I am most active as a fan.

    • Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that you belong within the majority line? Since you don’t necessarily need to peg yourself to the extreme parts of the open/positive quadrant, I mean.

  2. I find it a hard time trying to place myself on this plane. Being the founder/organizer of SCCSAV’s Terribad, it appears that I would be the poster child for that extreme. But it’s not the only kind of media we in the group subsist on; merely a small fraction of our overall entertainment consumption. The whole idea of participating in Terribad is being able to separate what is truly “bad” from the truly “good” and still derive enjoyment from it. Therefore someone who consciously and exclusively seeks out “bad” works can’t possibly exist. Same thing for Trolls, who only act as the tricksters occasionally. The Redeemers group seems poorly defined, and I just don’t know anyone who would behave the way Redeemers are described. The inability to even conceptualize a group for Neutral-Negative indicates to me that the Positive/Negative axis itself might be an invalid characterization.

    • Pontifus

       /  3 October 2011

      I stand by positive/negative as a useful distinction, more or less. But the usual rule of extremes applies here: the extremes don’t exist, really. Depending on how you look at it, either everyone’s in the middle, or (as I’d probably put it) people assume different positions at different times. We drummed it up in absolute terms for the convenience of it, but the graph is more useful as an indicator of discrete examples of fan activity than as a means of defining any given fan absolutely.

    • For one, we are taking into consideration the prominent, if not dominant, behavior one implements into consuming related media. We know that some of us can be categorized on other parts of the Cartesian plane because we change our preferences overtime. But like what Pontifus said, the usual rule of extremes apply, so they don’t necessarily plot anyone with carbon copy interests into the chart.

      I think the understanding of Terribad needs some clearing, as I am not part of the viewing group. Pontifus and I initially thought that you guys watch the show because it’s bad, and enjoy it BECAUSE it’s bad, hence the plotting of the demographic in the open/negative quadrant. However, your explanation seems to border between the positions of the Terribad Watcher and the Redeemer, since, as you said, you simply separate the bad from the good on the show and then enjoy it, as opposed to the Redeemer (who watches the shows with a bad impression and then find any redeeming factor to call it good) and our definition of the Terribad Watcher. I think we’ll have to ask other Terribad watchers (like Scamp) and ask their opinion about this.

      As for the Positive/Negative axis, we also had our issues about how we’re going to define “affinity”, but as Pontifus already stated, it’s just a useful distinction that applies to most instances of fan affinity that we can think of. We just need our defining points, and turns out it actually works for the graph.

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